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Search Begins for New Superintendent…Dec. 9, 2015

By Ann Needle
At its Dec. 2 meeting, the Nashoba School Committee offered its plans to replace departing Superintendent Michael Wood. Along with these details came some decisions on other issues throughout the district, including Kindergarten hours, standardized testing and honor rolls.

Giving an overview at the December 2 meeting of the process for finding the next superintendent, SC Rep. Nicole Odekirk of Stow explained that the SC selects the interim superintendent, who should start after the holidays. A community panel will choose a permanent superintendent, though that process will likely take several months, she noted.

As the search process begins—and most SC members are either new or in their first terms— SC Chair Lorraine Romasco of Bolton offered an overview of the Committee’s role in relation to the superintendent. She explained that, overall, the SC is responsible for “policy, budget, and hiring and evaluating the superintendent.” Policy involves approving district goals and the policies governing them, while the SC also approves the budget, then monitors it throughout the year.

As the SC’s sole employee, the superintendent “is responsible for hiring everyone else, and managing everyone else,” said Romasco. But, she added that the SC must approve the recommendation and hiring of the assistant superintendent, the director of special education, the business manager, and the district physician/nurse.

Lancaster SC Rep. Kathy Codianne reported that the MA Association of School Committees recommended a handful of candidates for the interim job, from a list of retired full-time superintendents in the area. The SC interviewed three candidates, including Acting Superintendent George King,  at an open meeting on Dec. 8.  ( See brief on page 1 for results of the interviews.)

As for an organization to help with the search process, Codianne announced the Personnel Sub Committee narrowed its choices to either the MA Association of School Committees or the New England School Development Council. The SC will vote for one of these group on Dec. 16, she added. The estimated costs would be about $9,500 for MASC, and about $13,000 for NESDEC.

Meanwhile, with King also serving as Hale Middle School principal, the SC voted unanimously to hire Patrick Perkins, the recently retired principal of Lancaster’s Luther Burbank Middle School, to step in as Hale Principal for at least the 3 weeks before an interim superintendent begins.

It’s MCAS for Now
In other district news, the SC agreed to stay with MCAS this school year as its standardized testing system. George King outlined how the state recently chose to develop an “MCAS 2.0” version by 2017, which would blend some questions from the newer PARCC into the current MCAS. Until then, any Massachusetts district looking to switch between MCAS and PARCC this spring would need to vote for the change by December 18, he said.

After hearing from some teachers in the audience that they would not have enough time to prepare for a new test this year, the SC decided not to vote to switch. However, King said he would gather more teacher feedback before the December 16 SC meeting.

Kindergarten Program Model Remains
There will also be no change for 2016/17 in Nashoba’s half/full day kindergarten set-up, which was put in place this school year. Cynthia Maxfield, Early Childhood Coordinator, told the SC that, after going to a blended kindergarten class model in order to meet growing demand for full-day classes, the teachers reported it is working well.

The model made all of Nashoba’s kindergarten classrooms full day, though parents can opt for a half day. The half-day students in each classroom go home when the full-day students go to lunch. The majority of Nashoba kindergarteners attend full day. Also, families of each full-day student currently pay more than $3,000 in tuition each year.

Though more educators are recommending full-day kindergarten for all students, Maxfield emphasized that some Nashoba parents cherish having a choice. However, the challenge has been the increasing academic demands of the Common Core curriculum, making it tough to fit all of the academic work into the mornings, when the half-day students attend, Maxfield said.

To help keep the mixed classes going and still get in vital instruction, Maxfield said teachers have asked to schedule fewer “specials”–such as art and music—into the day, especially in the mornings. She added that, with the model less than a year old, it is too soon to tell if half-day students keep up academically with their full-day peers in the same classes later on.

If Nashoba eventually moves all kindergarteners to full day, Maxfield cautioned that administration should look first into whether the district could get more state funding, giving the district cannot charge full-day tuition if it is the only option.

Honor Roll Changes on Hold
In the middle schools, any district-wide changes in the honor roll system are on hold once again. Instead, each Nashoba middle school School Council will likely decide whether to adopt the suggested changes.
Last school year, the SC chose to put off a vote on a new honor roll system, mainly due to protest over including “Habits of Mind” in the plan. These habits—such as completing homework and practicing good classroom behavior— are rated by each teacher under his or her own system. Anyone receiving a “seldom” on one of these habits would be disqualified from the honor roll, regarless of academic grades.
With similar arguments coming up again on Dec. 2, the SC agree to leave it to each School Council on whether to adopt the system.